Most ‘dieters’ avoid fats because they are a rich source of energy. However, this is a mistake because many fats are beneficial at causing weight loss. Gamma linolenic acid (GLA) is a fatty acid found in a number of plants including evening primrose and starflower. Gamma linolenic acid can also be synthesised from linoleic acid, a common fatty acid found in most vegetable oils. High intakes of gamma linolenic acid may have beneficial effects on body composition.
GLA Improves Insulin Sensitivity
One study assessed the use of gamma linolenic acid in preventing weight regain in dieters. Following a low calorie diets, those individuals who consumed gamma linolenic acid regained less weight than those given olive oil. The authors of the study suggested that the gamma linolenic acid prevented weight regain because it changed the way that fat was stored. In particular, they suggested it improved insulin sensitivity, which caused less energy to be sequestered as fat.
GLA Acid Reduces Inflammation
Weight gain, obesity and excess body fat is associated with inflammation. However, the cause and effects of this association is not fully understood. Obesity may cause inflammation in the body. Alternatively, inflammation may cause increased accumulation of belly fat. If the latter is true, gamma linolenic acid might be beneficial because it has important anti-inflammatory effects. In fact, these effects may in turn be the way that gamma linolenic acid improves insulin sensitivity.
Although gamma linolenic acid can be synthesised in humans, this process is inefficient. This is likely because humans have a genetic defect in the necessary enzyme. So while gamma linolenic acid can be synthesised from the linoleic acid in most vegetables oils, the reality is that this does not happen. In order to benefit from the weight loss effects of gamma linolenic acid, supplemental forms of the fatty acid must be used.
Don’t Forget The Fish Oils Too
Supplemental gamma linolenic acid may have anti-inflammatory effects. It may also improve insulin sensitivity. These effects are likely enhanced by simultaneous supplementation with fish oils. Fish oils compliment gamma linolenic acid because they have very similar anti-inflammatory and insulin sensitising effects. However, because they work in a slightly different ways, when combined their effect are synergistic.